Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Review of "I Still Dream About You" [10]

I Still Dream About You: A Novel  By Fannie Flagg
Random House, ISBN 978-1-4000-6593-6
November 9, 2010, 336 pages

Maggie Fortenberry seems to have a very comfortable, successful life. At 60, she is still a very attractive woman, a  former Miss Alabama..which is still a bit of a big deal where she lives... and seemingly a quite successful Birmingham real estate woman with a nice life.
But Maggie sees it quite differently. She feels that she has missed so many opportunities in her life, made some very bad decisions and is looking at a future that will only get worse. She misses her dear friend and mentor Hazel a great deal. Hazel was the woman that founded the real estate business Maggie works for, a business that has gone into quite a decline without her leadership since her death five years ago. So Maggie has come up with a long list of reasons while it is now time that she 'disappear'. In fact, she has come up with a very well thought out plan to kill herself.

Happily for us...and ultimately for Maggie...her plan keeps getting interrupted, again and again, forcing Maggie to reschedule. First, it is little things like a concert she has promised to go to with her best friend and fellow real estate agent Brenda or a scheduled hair appointment or an amusing car accident involving some goats and a lot of cheese. Then it is a couple of big things, like a chance to take on the sale of the lovely estate called Crestview, a house she has admired since she was a child, and save it from the wrecking ball. That is the fate her rival, the very, very successful realtor Babs, has in mind for Crestview and she can not be allowed to succeed!  Then there is the fascinating mystery that Maggie discovers surrounding the history of Crestview and those who once lived there ..not to mention a very real skeleton in the closet..a mystery Maggie just must solve.
Even if it means Maggie must put off her plans for just a little longer.

Honestly, when I first started to read this book, I was a little put off by the storyline of Maggie's plan to kill herself, but in a short time I was won over and ended up enjoying this book a great deal.
Fannie Flagg is a very good writer and a writer who always has the ability to make me laugh...which is a great plus for me in a book.
Also, this is a book filled with great, memorable characters. Oddly Maggie, although the central character of the book, is perhaps the least interesting of the crowd in my opinion. But there is her best friend Brenda Peoples, battling her weight and her intrusive family, and determined to be the first black woman elected as mayor of Birmingham. Then there is 80+ year old office manager Ethel, lavender from hair to toe, because someone once told her purple was her color. And even though she is already dead as the book begins, we meet, through Maggie's memories, the wonderful character of Hazel Whisenknott. Hazel never let the fact that she was a midget, a little person, keep her from becoming a very successful businesswoman, a hugely popular public speaker, a beloved wife and a woman who had a great positive effect in the city of Birmingham and in the lives of countless people..including Maggie. Hazel is a great character, someone who will make you smile and feel good, and so nicely created by Ms. Flagg, along with a number of other great characters in this book.

Not least of which is the city of Birmingham itself. As the author Pat Conroy says about this book, "I Still Dream About You is a love letter to the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama, and it captures a South that seems both original and right to me."
Birmingham is a city that, with its history during the Civil Rights movement, might not have the most positive image in the minds of many, but this book will help to dispel that. Flagg loves this city, it's history, it's pride, it's people and is able to make an industrial city, once best known for it's coal mines and steel mills, sound charming and beautiful.

This is a book that is at times very funny, yet also touches on some very serious topics like race and suicide and is ultimately very hopeful and positive, maybe most of all about people being able to effect change and be positive forces. It is very well written, just a very good story, with a nice little mystery thrown in for good measure and has some great characters who you will not soon forget.

My thanks to my local library for the loan of this book


  1. Oh, this sounds wonderful. Now I can't wait to get to my copy. I'm glad Hazel was a good character. My aunt Hazel was a huge influence in my life. I always associate that name with sheer goodness.

    Thanks, Caite for such an insightful review.

  2. I have never read Fannie Flagg. But I do like your book taste and I like it when the rare book has older characters so I may just have to check this one out! (double entendre there)

  3. I liked this one too, probably because it was a long time since I've read this author. Nice review Caite.

  4. Ms. Flagg doesn't just have fans, they are die hards that would take a bullet for her, so there must be something to that. The story sounds positively charming. (Side note: I think Pat Conroy has a side business of writing blurbs here lately.)

  5. well, I am not taking a bullet...but I liked the book.
    and you may be right about Mr. Conroy...but this time I agreed with him.
    So he must be right. :-)

  6. I've lived in two different places in Alabama for a total of 20 years and have visited Birmingham quite often and don't understand any one loving it. I'm still anxious to read this one - I love Fannie Flagg!

  7. It sounds like one of those wacky Southern novels, which aren't bad but I have to be in the mood for it.

  8. Wonderful review! I've heard so many good things about this book. I think I'm going to end up treating myself and buying it. One if my favorites by her was A Redbird Christmas.


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